Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jonah and Revival

The past few weeks we have had a sermon series on Jonah at church.  Excellent as always.  It is a fascinating book which includes a fantastical tale of a man living in a fish for 3 days and 3 nights.  A man called by God who runs away from that call.  A man who sees there is no way out, confesses his sin, is released from his fishy captivity and goes to fulfill God's call on his life.

When Jonah gets there I really don't imagine a ton of enthusiasm in his message.  Nineveh isn't a place of God.  It is filled with sinful people living sinful lives.  That is sort of the whole reason God is going to destroy it and the whole reason Jonah didn't want to go in the first place.  I sort of imagine him wandering the city square muttering under his breath, "the end is near, the end is near".  No call to repentance since he did not believe nor want God to save them.  He wandered over to the temple, preached his message with no engaging stories or convicting finger pointing.  Just your basic, "you are all a bunch of sinners and God is going to destroy you" message and then sitting back down.  He did this while waiting for God to do the deed.  I imagine he planned to smile smugly at their destruction, knowing they deserved it, God said so, and head back where he came from.

But this crazy thing happened.  The people heard him, believed, and turned to God.  Confessed their sins and begged for mercy.  And then!  THEN!  To Jonah's horror, God accepted their confession, forgave them and called off the destruction plan!  Can you imagine?

So Jonah had a little tantrum, God tried to give him an object lesson and the book is over.

And we tell this story to our children in Sunday School lessons and in little story books and in veggie tales movies.

I sort of relate to Jonah.  I mean God makes a very big deal of sending him to warn Nineveh of its destruction.  He goes around telling everyone God is going to destroy the city and then God makes him look like a fool by changing his mind!

I hate looking stupid.  Seriously hate it.  So while I can look at this overall story and see how ridiculous Jonah was being about the whole thing, if I step in and stand in his shoes, I get it.

This week I have been thinking about times in my life where I really felt like I was following God's call and in the end things didn't go they way I expected.  And I am standing there looking a little foolish and wondering what I did wrong.  Did I hear wrong?  Do I know God at all?  I shrink back to my corner hoping nobody noticed and vow not to make any bold statements again.  Who am I to know the mind of God?  I will just hang back and watch life play out, no need to be a player, just observe and lick my wounds.

But maybe, MAYBE, it wasn't that I heard God wrong but that circumstances changed.  Maybe I don't know God's full plan.

I suspect that God's message all along, what He sent Jonah to do, was a call to repentance.  While he was prepared to destroy Nineveh His ultimate goal was to bring them back into fellowship with Him.  And the people fully did so. If Jonah had a heart for the things of God rather than being more aware of his own desires and actions, he might have seen the truth and been able to rejoice with God and the people of Nineveh.  If he was really paying attention and looking at his life he might have even put on sackcloth of his own and fasted and prayed alongside the Ninevites.

I am reminded that God's plans are bigger than my plans.  He sees the whole picture, knows the hearts of an entire city.  I can only see my very limited and earthly view of things.  Will I be like Jonah and hold a grudge against people never letting them change or reach out to God?  Will I go sit in the desert and demand God bring them destruction?  Or will I join God in his work?  Rejoice when I see repentance and trust that His plans, His ways are far above my own.

I have been thinking about praying for revival this week.  And I was reminded of a story I first read in the book, "The Circle Maker" of a man who drew a circle on the ground, sat down inside and asked God to create a revival inside that circle.  Revival starts with us.  Any revival I want to see must start with me.  And it starts with confessing our sins and submitting ourselves to God's purposes.

That is what I am doing this week because while I may relate to Jonah, I don't want to be Jonah.

Care to join me?  Here are a couple great articles I found to help get me started:

How to Have a Personal Revival
Preparation for Personal Revival

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My brown Kitchen

This is a random post I should probably save for our anniversary but when I get an idea for a post I just go with it.  Maybe I will re-post it for our anniversary.

Weddings are wonderful for many reasons.  Love, family, celebration.  But on the practical side, they are great for setting up homemaking.  It would have been a challenge for John and I to buy everything we needed in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and general home decor. With a wedding and a couple showers we had everything we needed and more.  Many of our wedding gifts have long been used up, worn out, broken or gone out of fashion and left the behind.  We have slowly replaced bedding, towels, dishes, knives, utensils, candle holders, etc over the years.  However, as I wander our home I find a few treasures still here from that outpouring of love from family and friends on our special day.

I didn't pull out every single thing but you get the idea.  Pyrex lives forever, mixing bowls, cake pans of every size and pie plates continue to serve us well.  Almost all of them were clear.  You will also note the Chicago cutlery knife and sharpener (no that knife is not sharp anymore) and the brown visionware spoon that went with the brown visionware pots and pans we registered for.

The formal stuff.  I still love my china and yes indeed I do still keep the relish tray in its original box.  That crystal pitcher is so heavy you couldn't lift it to pour if you added water so it gets used mainly for flowers.

We had 2 precious ring bearers who gave us this after the rehearsal.  Reminds us 23 years later we can always be on our honeymoon.

When we were at Dayton's registering for our wedding we found ourselves unprepared for setting up a home.  Of course we didn't ask for help, we were determined to be independent and do everything ourselves as our own new little family rather than let our parents influence our decision.  Besides, what could they possibly know about buying new home stuff?  Their homes were full of old stuff.  We were going to be modern, not old fashioned.  Except of course we had no idea what that meant.

You know how some little girls play house and imagine what their future home will look like?  You know how as they grow up they dream of getting married and having a home of their own?  You know how they might have started with a decorating plan for their room?  My sister-in-law had already started collecting her wedding flatware and another friend had bought a set of dishes.  You know how girls are like that?  I wasn't that girl.  I should have been voted most unlikely to marry at 19.

I had literally never given any thought to getting married or how my future home would look or be decorated.  Not that I didn't want a decorated home but I had just never thought about to how you put everything together.  And, as you can imagine, neither had John.

So there we were wandering around Dayton's trying to figure out what we needed for the rest of our lives.  From a practical standpoint we were able to write down baking pans, measuring cups, mixing bowls, etc.  Back then they didn't have a scanning gun that let you chose the exact mixing bowl you wanted just the general category.  Then the tricky part came in, you wrote down your decorating scheme.  What are your colors?  Because of John's sister getting married the year before us and not getting any towels the color they registered for we happened to have given some thought to this one question.  Burgundy, black and gray towels came to us in many brands and shades.  Then we got to the kitchen.  What are your kitchen colors?  And I am sort of thinking, "kitchens have colors?"  At the time John was living in an apartment with bright salmon colored countertops that should have seen the end of their useful life a few years before.  I didn't know much but I knew I wasn't going to decorate around that color. Having absolutely no idea what to put down we finally wrote down "earth tones" thinking that means neutral and we can then put with whatever color we do eventually decide on.

Luckily most people decided against giving us kitchen things with a color because it became clear what a mistake it was when I started opening earth toned gifts.  Brown towels and potholders.  And a set of mixing bowls that were Orange, green and yellow.

 23 years later I am still using the ugliest thing we got for our wedding.

The Orange and Green have broke but the yellow bowl lives on.

In the following years as other friends got married it quickly became apparent to me that they all understood something about decorating and setting up a home that I had totally missed when doing my wedding registry.  The hottest look in kitchens at that time was bright white kitchens with cobalt blue accents. I never could work my brown towels and orange mixing bowl into that particular trend.  Over the years many kitchen color schemes have come and gone, our earth tones even had their day in the sun.  But I still look back and laugh about getting brown kitchen towels for my wedding.

I don't know if it is simply irony or if that experience actually played a role in determining our life work. John proceeded to go to school for home design and we ran a business in which knowing all the latest design and decorating trends, especially for kitchens was a vital aspect of our success.  People now come to us for advice on designing and decorating their homes.  We've come a long way from those two clueless kids sitting on the floor of Dayton's filling out a registry.

In case your are wondering what I dream of these days I thought I would put a few items from my pintrest page on for your viewing pleasure.

gray cabinetry, stripe tile detail
I do have a master bath that needs re-doing and this would look great in there.

Contemporary Kitchens, Integrated Appliances, Bench tops and Soft Closing Doors, Impala Kitchens and Bathrooms
Our new kitchen is a little more contemporary with gloss white cabinets and black appliances.  Would love to replace our carpet with dark wood floors.  Haven't decided yet if I want to do dark countertops though.  That sounds a little high maintenance.  Age has taught me to consider both design and function.

Small Bedroom Interior Design - Interior Design for Small Space
Isabelle's room would look great like this.  Although her and John and plotting to build a loft bed...

Laundry Room
We have identified a corner of our dining room where we are going to build a closet with a laundry room behind it.  I love being able to visualize.  Also, love the black laquered doors they put on this.  I just saw black doors in an older home that had been remodeled to have a more contemporary design and it was fabulous.  Keep the trim white and just paint the doors.  Sounds crazy but totally works.

The other day I was talking to a girlfriend, one that thought a lot about her future home growing up.  She finally says, "I have to go, Lottie and I are re-wallpapering a room in her doll house."  I started to laugh.  Her 6 year old was already preparing for her future home.  I think I see a decorating project for Isabelle and I in the future.  I wouldn't want her to end up with brown dish towels.  Unless of course that is the current trend.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Embracing the Path Before Us

When Jake was 4 years old we made a decision.  We had been trying unsuccessfully to give him a sibling for 3 years and finally hit a wall.  While we hadn't exhausted every medical option that existed, we had exhausted every option financially available to us at that time. So with reality smacking us in the face we looked at God, acknowledged the path he had put us on and began to celebrate it.  God gave us one child.  A great child.  A child we adored.  If we were to be the parents of an only child we would embrace this path with gusto!

One of the first things we did was get a family picture taken.  We had gotten one taken when Jake was about 15 months but I had put off updating it since then because we were about to get pregnant and have another so I might as well wait until then.  Why waste money on a photo of the family that will be obsolete so quickly?  In an effort to put action to our resolve we went out and had family pictures taken.

(I would scan in that picture here but I am too lazy.  I will just tell you it is adorable and we all look young, fresh and energetic.)

You don't always realize how you are putting your life on hold waiting for something until you let go and stop waiting.  In the back of my mind I had avoided a significant vacation because our family wasn't complete.  I wanted our whole family to experience the world with us.  So we headed to Disneyland the following year. The truth is that we don't really travel all that much, not that we wouldn't like to but we just have never prioritized our money that way, so the next time we took a trip of any significance was almost 10 years later when we went to Kenya, but that Disney trip was a huge symbolic step to embracing and celebrating the path God had put us on.

With this appreciation of God's guiding in our life we have more quickly embraced the road blocks and changes that have come our way over the years.  Not seamlessly, not perfectly, our will still conflicts at times with God's plans and I do still fight it at times.  But we have learned to live our life amidst whatever reality is before us.

This past fall as we were house hunting for this downsized home we got to embrace a reality we hadn't expected to experience quite so soon.  Jake being gone.  When we started house hunting we were looking for 3 bedrooms expecting Jake to still have seasons at home with us.  But by fall he had joined the army and decided to marry.  Both those actions guaranteed he would not need a bedroom in our home again.  Moving our sights to a 2 bedroom gave us the option of prioritizing the needs of the child we still have at home and finding the perfect fit for our family.  Embracing the stage of parenting we are in now.

At Jake's wedding I returned to the symbolic action I first took when we embraced him as an only child, the family picture.  Our family has changed, in a variety of ways, and we now need 4 family pictures to represent who we are today.  We captured that change in the moment it happened.

A family of 3 once again embracing the only child lifestyle.

A new family created.

A wedding is a place where a family both multiplies and divides.

That only child God gave us has grown to become 3 beautiful children for us to love.

How are you embracing he path God has set before you?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter blahs, working, Nehemiah, Anne and the warm breeze of summer

It is winter.  I mean winter, winter.  We are beyond the beginning of winter when the snow arrives and cleans up all the dead and dreary scenery, we are past the joyful holidays, we are past that bitter cold spell where you determine your grit and push forward, BUT, we aren't heading into the home stretch where signs of spring mingle with cold and snow.  Nope, we are in that part of winter that is just winter, winter.  Cold, snow, ice and nothing but stretching before us.

It is beautiful.  After a fresh snowfall we do try to focus on that.  For a day or two.  And, yesterday as I was pushing my grocery cart through the snow and ice covered parking lot I even thought of something to be thankful for:  I was not pushing a crabby 2 year old in a grocery cart through a snow and ice covered parking lot.  It really is amazing how much more enjoyable an experience it becomes when you remember that detail.

So I am in the winter blahs.

But I am a Minnesotan, this is not my first winter, not my first winter blah.  After a couple days of being pathetic I finally realized there was nothing to do but keep moving so I got up and moved on with my life.  And stopped for a Caribou on my way.  Because nothing helps say, "suck it up buttercup" like a sugary cup of coffee.

So to explain my life right now I think it is necessary to review the last almost 3 years. (Can you believe it has been almost 3 years since I returned to work!)  Year one had me working 8-5 every. single. day. M-F.  I liked the job and the people but we realized that particular structure was just not us.  Plus there was no real opportunity for me to grow in that company and I wasn't making anything near enough to support us once John quit working, even with a downsize.  So then I went to a 30 hour a week from home job which seemed like it would be perfect except that it wasn't.  And after 9 months self preservation caused me to quit that job.  But by then I had realized what I needed to do was real estate.  I had loved and wanted to sell real estate for so many years I couldn't even tell you but never was ready to take on the task before.  But now with the time to work carved out of my life, a clear sense of my need for making money and my preparedness to actually do the work I went for it and started my own business.  I have been running John's business for years and telling him what to do to grow and succeed.  This is my chance to do those things for myself.  And so for the last almost year I have been learning, calling, meeting, talking, mailing, listening, asking, showing.  I have seriously loved every single second of it.  John worked all summer making money while I was busy working basically for free.  When I started everyone told me it takes at least a year to start making money in real estate.  And the longer I am in it the more I see the truth of that statement.  It takes time to tell everyone you know you are selling real estate and then not everyone you know is buying or selling the year you start, so you have to wait.  I have a hand full of people who "sometime in the next year or two" are going to move and use me but this does not pay my bills today.  Eventually it will come together but until then I did what I knew I would have to do when I started, get a part time job.  Which I did last month and I am really happy with the decision.

So here we are today.  I went from a job where I was out of the house nearly 10 hours a day with lunch and commute time but evenings and weekends were completely mine, to a job I was at home all the time and worked the hours around my schedule ton now where I am doing a combination of work that is dictated by others and work that I manage myself.  It is the right balance for making me feel in control and yet is such a full plate I sometimes feel out of control.  I am finding that the hardest part about establishing a business is that you are  never sure it is safe to stop working.  And yet at this early stage of starting I am not always sure what exactly the next thing to do is.  So I find myself sort of hovering all the time over the business.  Afraid to walk away but not always sure what to do while I am there.

I also am experiencing a new phenomenon in working that I had never had.  Working weekends.  My part time job has me doing a Saturday shift until 2pm. And then Sunday's I am often holding open houses after church.  Which then leads me to the reality that I no longer have a weekend.

Now I am not complaining but I have suddenly found myself working 7 days a week and it is a bit overwhelming!  OK maybe a little complaint but mostly I am thrilled to have so much to do and work I really am enjoying.  However, I have a husband and daughter and friends and a home to squeeze in there.  Plus I miss running, I want to be able to take a vacation day this summer and occasionally I just like to do my nails or something just for me. The problem is when I get overwhelmed I don't go off and do my nails or go for a run or something that refreshes me.  Instead I pass out on the couch, watch too many hours of tv and then get mad at myself for wasting so much time when I have so much to do.  And what I realized this past weekend is that unlike when I was at home and would have an overwhelmed, lay on the couch breakdown, there is no margin in my life for this breakdown.  I needed those hours I wasted watching tv to do the laundry, make meals ahead or...do my nails (they are so bad right now).

Then again...Things tend to work themselves out.  First of all, I am not doing everything on my own anymore.  While I was laying on the couch John made a meal and froze it.  I did a couple loads of laundry yesterday morning before leaving and John finished the rest when he came home.  We are sharing the work load.  When I first started working I knew it was necessary but it was also stressful to share the work load.  I had been in control of the home and was used to knowing exactly what was happening with every task.  I knew I needed to let John help but it took time to let go and trust him.  I am there now.  (mostly.)  Secondly, this new home takes seconds to clean.  I can shape up 1100 square feet in less than an hour.

So this week I am working on schedule organization, a plan for my working hours and my home hours.  Because while it turns out if I fall apart for an afternoon things do still get done, it still isn't ideal.  I would rather enjoy my relaxation time, schedule it in, instead of becoming overwhelmed and falling apart because I forgot to take care of myself.

I decided to read through Nehemiah during my quiet time.  That man  had a big project in front of him.  He took time off from his job to go to Jerusalem, rally the Israelites and get the wall and gates rebuilt.  He encountered lots of obstacles but kept moving forward, displayed leadership skills and got the job done.  It just seems like there might be something worth learning at this stage of my life.

I am also reading the book Anne of Green Gables to Isabelle right now.  This was a favorite when I was a kid.  As an adult I see it with new eyes and find it even more brilliant.  It is easy to see why it is so beloved.  The other day I read the part where Anne is in a little boat floating down the river when all the sudden she realizes it is starting to sink.  She is standing in the boat when she sees the pillars of the bridge she is coming toward and realizes it is her chance.  She didn't close her eyes because she didn't want to miss the opportunity but she prayed and told God if He would just bring the boat near the pillar she would do the work!  And I think about what I am doing career wise.  There is a lot to do and a lot to watch and I find myself also afraid to close my eyes for fear of missing he opportunity but often praying, "God, just bring me close and I will do the work!"  I think this is the same type of prayer that Nehemiah prayed. There are several times where he prayed and then spoke or did.  Quick in the moment prayers. I bet he didn't close his eyes either.  I bet it was a prayer that sounded a little like Anne's, "get me close and I will do the work."

So the update of my life is that I am working.  It is cold and there is a lot of snow.  

When John started school someone said to him, 10 years from now it will be 10 years from now. Great advice for our stage of life.  But also maybe for the next 4 months.  No matter our attitude or action time goes on, life moves forward.  So whether I am up or down, work hard or wallow in the winter blahs for the next 4 months, June will come, the grass will turn green, the trees will blossom, the pool will open, and summer will be upon us.  While we wait the question is, "How will I spend the time?"  What am I going to accomplish?  Am I still going to be sitting here feeling overwhelmed or am I going to say my prayer and do the work God brings my way, get my schedule organized and be ready with a plan that allows me to sit guilt free on my porch and enjoy the warm summer breeze?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What is my story?

Throughout our lives we each have many stories. Stories of events, stories of funny or sad experiences, stories that help people understand who we are and how we think.  Telling our stories to others helps them know and understand who we are.  The stories we tell about ourselves define who we are, who we think we are.

Lately I have been thinking about the story I have been telling.

This fall and over Christmas I had a very painful relationship problem.  I was treated poorly, accused of things I didn't do, attacked when I got upset for being falsely accused.  Treated with extreme disrespect and humiliated in front of friends and family.

It wasn't pretty.

And I have been telling the story.  To friends who ask, friends who don't ask, and mostly to myself.  Over and over I would tell my story and reach out to God.  Finally God answered me, "Melanie, that isn't your story."

It feels an awful lot like my story.  I was there, I experienced the attacking words and the behavior, fielded the questions and condolences from the witnesses, was crippled by the pain of being hurt.  This definitely feels like my story.

But immediately I knew God was right.  This isn't my story.  I certainly found myself tangled up in someone elses story, but God is right, this is not my story.  It is their story.  

However, the more I told the story, the more it was beginning to define me.  Poor Melanie who has been so terribly mistreated. How could this happen?  And people would look at me with sympathy and sadness, the same sadness I was feeling because of everything that had happened.  So I kept praying because I wanted to be rid of my sadness and I didn't like seeing my pain reflected back to me on the faces of those I was sharing with.  However, the more I told the story both to others and to myself, the deeper it was settling on me.

"Melanie, that isn't your story."

I do have a story in all this.  But it isn't a story of how I was attacked and hurt. It is the story of how God walked with me through a difficult journey.  The lessons he has taught, the lessons I have learned.  My story is of learning to trust God with relationships you can no longer be a part of and experience his protection when you are.  Because there are some relationships you can never get out of and no matter what happens in them you wouldn't want to.  So God protects you.  And you trust God.  And you believe that God will redeem your relationship someday.

I am starting to heal, I feel stronger each day. My hurt is slowly disappearing. And God has blessed us with many good things this month.  I think my husband and friends are all a little worried that I will start to feel so strong I will forget my hurt and try to re-engage in the relationship.  Honestly, I am a little afraid I might do that too.  But if I do that I will have forgotten my story, the story where I have placed this relationship in God's hands and am trusting Him to bring it back to me when it is safe and I am ready.  That is the true story, that is my story.

What is your story?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Joy while promoting peace

The other day I read, "There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace." Prov 12:20

Relationships are hard and not all the people we are in relationships with are easy to get along with.  If you are struggling with a relationship, especially a relationship with someone close to you, it can be a real joy killer. As I sit in a particularly hard relationship right now this verse was a little reminder that I can have joy despite its hard because I know that while I might not be perfect in my heart I work to promote peace not plot evil.

Since joy is a choice rather than something that does or doesn't happen, you have to spend some time thinking about how to have joy.  In this case I can experience joy when I remember that I am trying to promote peace and I see God applauds that behavior.   I can let go of guilt or responsibility for the relationship which holds me back from joy. I am not perfect but I know my heart.  And I remind myself that the battles before me are for God not me.

So I can look out the window and have joy because I can see the beauty of a fresh blanket of snow.  I can have joy when I see my daughter sitting at the table working hard on her homework, I can have joy while laughing at my 5 year old nephew who has discovered how funny it is when he says, "Awkward!" in the middle of a conversation.  And I can let myself step away from my stressful and at times difficult life to go help a friend with a church decorating project we both love to work on, the joy we both get from doing it together.

Where did you experience joy today?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Middle

Traditionally when you read a story or watch a movie there is a beginning, middle and end.   We mostly focus on the beginning and end but don't spend much time dwelling on the middle.  Because the middle is just the middle.  There is no significance.  Nothing happens in the middle, and yet a lot happens in the middle.

The middle is the time where they are learning, growing, becoming.  In a mystery, the middle is where the clues are gathered.  In a love story it is the time where they are getting to know each other.  We learn details about characters and their lives in the middle.  Sometimes the middle is where tragic events occur that cause our hero or heroine to grow and examine the choices of life. Everything that happens in the middle is vitally important to what happens next but not always the part of the story we talk about.  When you think about the Matrix, do you remember how Neo struggled to believe he was the one and had doubts or do you remember how he confidently walked through a security gate and the epic series of action scenes that followed.  We remember how he came to believe and did things that they didn't know were possible, but before that, he was just a guy on a cold ship, wearing old clothes and with serious doubts about who he was.

The stories in the bible have beginnings, middles and ends.  Abraham was told by God to sacrifice Isaac, brought him up the mountain to do so and at the last minute God stopped him and provided an alternate sacrifice.  God's people were rescued from Egypt, wandered for 40 years in the desert and then were given the promise land.  The prodigal son was given his inheritance, was gone many years and then returned. Mary was told she would give birth to God's son, 9 months of pregnancy passed and then Jesus was born.  33 years later he was crucified on a cross, 3 days past and then he rose from the dead.

What happens in the middle?  What was it like for Abraham to walk up that mountain not knowing God would save his only son?  What did the Israelites do for 40 years wandering the desert wondering what the purpose of their life was?  What was the father of the prodigal son thinking when he sold half his stuff, gave it to his son who he loved and watched him walk away unsure he would ever see him again?  What was it like for Mary to spend all those months being judged?  And then all those years raising Jesus and watching him grow and be part of their lives.  He didn't launch his ministry at 18 after high school, when he was an adult, he continued to live as a regular man learning and listening well into his adult life.  What was Mary thinking about the fact that she was raising God's son and yet he was doing nothing significant?  What were Jesus' disciples thinking during those 3 days Jesus was in the tomb?  How they all must have suffered.

We know the stories, know how they end, the beautiful way God redeems, works out situations.  He has a purpose for everything he does.  So when we see someone in the middle or we are in the middle we tell ourselves God will work it out.  And He does!  No doubt about it. Eventually.  God does not make random decisions, he is not surprised by anything that happens.  God does not go about reacting to what pops out in front of him.  He didn't leave the Israelites in the desert for 40 years because he forgot about them or was busy with something else.  There is deep purpose in the middle.

In the middle we grow, learn, listen, believe.

I imagine Abraham walking up that mountain praying, telling God he trusted him, reminding himself of God's promise and power to fulfill it.  Reminding himself of God's sovereignty and his commitment to Him.  But I also can't imagine the walk up the mountain without also hearing Abraham's doubts, fears.  Why are you asking this of me God?  How can you fulfill your promise if I sacrifice Isaac to you?  I don't want to do this Lord, please don't ask me to do this.  And I imagine a deep sadness settling on him as he got closer and knew he must obey the Lord.  The full gamut of grief.

I imagine the Israelites wander the desert, day in and day out.  The routine can become comfortable and familiar.  Life happens.  Manna and quail show up every day to feed them.  They walk, set up tents, build fires, sleep.  Wake up, break down camp and move again.  They marry, have children, celebrate, learn, grow, listen.  But they wonder what they are doing, how long must they do it.  They get tired of all the same, see other nations building buildings, building wealth, setting down roots, having a place to belong and yet they just wander.

I imagine the father of the prodigal son.  The grief he must have felt when his son asked for his inheritance.  I imagine him selling half of all he had to give his son the money he desired and then watching him walk down the path away from him.  I imagine what it must have felt like to not know if he would ever see him again.  And I imagine all those years the father spent, rebuilding his wealth, taking care of his land, enjoying his other son yet knowing someone was missing from all their celebrations.  Always remembering the son who left.  I imagine him wondering what he did wrong.  Wishing he could go back and be a better father.  His desire to go find him and bring him back.  Tell him he is wrong and make him understand how much the father loves him.  And how much more valuable that is than all of his wealth and any inheritance he might receive.  And yet, he waits patiently at home.

I imagine Mary going through a pregnancy, trying to convince people she did not cheat on Joseph, being judged, hiding, being scared of what was happening to her.  Trusting God and yet, wondering, so much wondering when we are in the middle, Mary wondering what will happen to her.  Why did God chose her?

I imagine Mary's pain as her son is killed, crucified.  As she watches him die.  And his disciples who gave up families and livelihoods to follow him.  3 days of wondering, why they did that?  Do they have anything to go back to?  What is next for them?  I imagine a real crisis of faith at that moment.

Maybe it is just me but when I am in the middle I tend to get wiggly.  Sometimes the middle can be OK. We are in the middle of John's educational journey.  It isn't fun but I can practically taste the thrill of victory that will come when he is finished and has a job in hand.  And the success will be sweeter because of all we did to get there.

However, not all middles are the result of a clear goal or plan.  Sometimes you are in the middle of something you don't want to be in, sometimes you get put there by someone else and you have no idea when or if it will ever end.  Being in the middle of something you didn't choose, no fun.

Still, the stories give us hope. Keep us going.  Abraham came down the mountain with his son, the Israelites settled in the promise land, the prodigal son came home, Jesus was born and had a ministry, he rose from the dead and is reining to this day.  Knowing all that doesn't make the middle difficult, a big pain in the butt, a place we want to run from but, it does remind us on those days that there will be an end and God's purpose is always so much more amazing than what we had planned for ourselves.